Asia-Pacific

Manila bus siege victims flown back to Hong Kong

Coffins of those killed in Manila are brought to a Hong Kong-bound plane on 25 August 2010
Image caption The victims' coffins were loaded on to a specially chartered plane

Victims of the Manila bus hijack have been flown back to Hong Kong, two days after the deadly siege which left eight tourists dead.

Survivors, relatives of the victims and coffins carrying those who died left the Philippine capital after a ceremony at the airport.

They left as the Philippines observed a day of mourning for the dead.

Philippine police have admitted to poor handling of the siege and several officers have been removed from duty.

They have been accused of failing to respond quickly or effectively enough after the bus was hijacked by an armed former police officer who wanted his job back.

Suspended

At the airport in Manila, the eight coffins were loaded on to a specially chartered plane for the journey home, after a Buddhist ceremony.

Most of the survivors of the siege flew home on the same plane. Of 25 people initially taken hostage, nine were freed following initial negotiations and seven others were later rescued after police marksmen killed the gunman.

Of these, one person remains in intensive care in Manila and another will be flown home on a medivac plane.

Three of those who died were members of a familiy of five on board the bus with dual Hong Kong-Canadian citizenship, police have confirmed.

Both Chinese and Hong Kong officials have voiced concern about how the hijacking was handled.

It took armed police about an hour to gain access to the bus after they began trying to smash its windows with sledgehammers.

A spokesman for the Philippine police said that four officers who led the assault team had been suspended pending an investigation.

Manila police chief Rodolfo Magtibay has also said he will take a leave of absence.

Police said that the firearms used by the police assault team would be checked to determine whether any of the hostages had been hit by police fire.

Officials have also suggested that the media coverage of the siege - the incident was shown on live television - may have elevated tensions.

Police believe the hostage-taker was monitoring TV coverage from inside the bus, which contributed to his agitation as the crisis came to a head.

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